Three Columbia FFA teams advance to nationals


Nikol Slatinska

Three Future Farmers of America (FFA) teams from Columbia won their respective state contests April 20 and 21 at the Hearnes Center in Columbia. They will advance to the national convention Oct. 24-28 in Indianapolis, Ind.
The teams contain RBHS, Battle High School (BHS) and Hickman High School (HHS) students. Three RBHS students, senior Emily Wawrzyniak and junior Abigel Jarvis from the poultry team and junior Audrey Wooden from the livestock team, will be competing in October.
Wawrzyniak described her experience at state on the poultry team as stressful but fun. She has competed on other teams before and said that while they’re all difficult in different ways, poultry is one of the more extensive teams. The poultry contest has 13 classes, with challenges ranging from ranking four chickens from best to worst and explaining why to a judge, grading eggs and processed chicken — both boneless and bone-in — and, lastly, a 30 question written test.
Despite her experience as an FFA member, this was the first year Wawrzyniak made it to the state competition.
“I’ve been in FFA for three years, and I’ve never made the state team until this year. It was kind of stressful because it’s like my one and only shot to do it. Our whole team messed up on class five, so we were really stressing about that. They didn’t post results until 10:00 that night, and we got done around 2:30 P.M., so it was just a lot of waiting,” Wawrzyniak said.” I knew I was going to cry either way if we won or lost, so I did cry when we found out that we made it. Actually, like 10 minutes after they posted results they took them down, which normally means they entered something wrong. So then I started crying again because I was like, ‘What if they take it away from us?’ But they put it back up, and none of the scores had changed. I don’t know what happened there, maybe they were just trying to scare us.”
Even with that nerve-racking moment, FFA advisor Kevin Duncan thinks the state contest was successful overall, especially since the last time RBHS had any state winners was two years ago. Contrary to athletics, the size of the schools competing doesn’t matter with FFA, he explained.
“The state level is extremely competitive. There’s over 300 schools that have the ability to come to state,” Duncan said. “There’s no size classification, and it’s not necessarily an advantage to be a big school. For example, another very successful school in the state is one of the smallest 1A schools, but they won three state level events, too.”
Although she was not on one of the teams advancing to nationals, junior Lauren Sanner, who competed in the meats contest, said she had a lot of fun and is looking forward to competing again next year if she gets the chance to.
Were she to get that chance, Sanner said she would like to compete on the food science team, hopefully with other members from her current meats team. Unlike the poultry contest, the meats contest was a bit more fast-paced.
“There’s an identification part where we had to identify like 40 different cuts, and then there’s four placement classes, where there are four cuts, and you have to identify them from best to worst,” Sanner said. “There’s a written test with about 20 questions, like a multiple choice test about the meat industry. We just kind of went through that, and it took about two hours. It was really simple.”
Sanner’s team placed sixth in its contest. Although only the top three scores in the team make up the final score, each team member participates. Fortunately for Wawrzyniak, those individual scores earned her a place at nationals. She said she’s excited, but the feeling hasn’t really sunk in yet.
“On Friday when I saw all my team members again, we were all like, ‘Oh, my god!’ and we screamed. And then we had the awards ceremony that night, and we were up on stage in front of the 10,000 people that were there for it, and [the feeling] set in again,” Wawrzyniak said. “So I think it’s just going to keep setting in. I know it happened, but it doesn’t really feel like it happened. In October once we get to nationals, it’s going to really set in then.”